Zero is normal. One is impressive. Four is record-breaking.
That’s the number of students from Columbus who have received appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — one of the most selective colleges in the country.
Andrew Baldwin, Kian Geraghty, Daniel Kotnik and Michael Vogel will be headed to New York in July to earn a fully funded four-year college education. Tuition, room, board, medical and dental care are provided by the U.S. Army, and the cadets will earn a monthly stipend.
The four students — two from Columbus North High School, one from Columbus East High School and a home-schooled student — were among the top 10 percent of all applicants.
More than 15,000 students submitted applications to become part of the Class of 2016, and only 1,193 entered West Point in fall 2012.
Ebb and flow
Cpt. Nate LaMar, the military academy liaison officer for east-central and southeastern Indiana, said those numbers fluctuate mostly with the ebb and flow of war.
He said there was a spike in interest after 9/11, and then that interest dropped when conditions in Iraq got particularly bad in 2005-07.
“Since then, West Point has just gone off the charts,” he said.
That means the four Columbus students competed with more students than ever for their selection.
The men went through a long and tedious application process that included interviews, a candidate fitness assessment and qualifying medical exam. They also had to receive a nomination from a member of Congress or a senator.
LaMar helped recruit them.
“I look for the total-person concept, the well-rounded individual,” he said.
Academics are the most important, but athletics ability and leadership skills are also necessary.
The school prepares cadets for a career in military leadership — students are committed to serving five years after graduation — through academic, military and physical development programs.
Students must complete a core curriculum and then select from among 37 majors. They must participate in Cadet Basic Training during their first summer. They are also required to compete in one of 25 varsity or club sports during their time at the academy.
LaMar has his theories for why so many students were appointed from Columbus this year. When congressional districts changed, more students from Columbus were eligible for congressional appointments, he said.
The facts are impressive any way you measure them, he said.
“I’m very excited to have that many representatives from the city of Columbus at West Point,” LaMar said. “It shows that Columbus is a forward-thinking city, not just in terms of education, but also in terms of social fabric to be able to produce four West Pointers at the same time.”
Meet the West Point cadets
Andrew Baldwin: Life-changing opportunity
School: Columbus North High School
Parents: Dave and Theresa Baldwin
High school activities: Took seven Advanced Placement courses in American history, literature and composition, biology, calculus BC, chemistry, language composition and U.S. government; academic letter; Outstanding Student in Automotive Technologies; ranked 14 of 470 students; Debuteens and Music Men Show Choir; Track and Field Academic All-State.
High school athletics: Columbus North cross-country with a varsity letter in 2012; Columbus North track and field with a varsity letter in 2012, 2013.
Community activities: As an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America, worked with the athletics director at Ceraland to lay out a 5K running course, coordinated the efforts of fellow Scouts and cross-country team members, accumulated more than 200 volunteer hours and cleared a mile-long path at Ceraland; East Columbus Christian Church member; Piedras Negras, Mexico, mission trip; installed a new courtyard and air-conditioning-unit fencing at the church.
He’s reached the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America, so now Andrew Baldwin is ready for the next challenge.
He said he remembers opening up his mailbox and yelling when he found the appointment.
The Columbus North High School senior has challenged himself academically with Advanced Placement courses and physically with cross-country and track and field.
He is ready for the leadership expectations after putting in more than 200 volunteer hours at Ceraland to clear a mile-long path through a forested and previously unused portion of the park.
But he knows the military will add an extra dimension to those challenges.
He is not sure what exactly he wants to do in his future, but he is interested in the medical school option to perform reconstructive surgery in an Army hospital.
“It’s going to be so different,” he said. “I know it’s probably going to change who I am as a person.”
Kian Geraghty: Fit for the test
School: Columbus East High School
Parents: David and Carol Geraghty
High school activities: Rugby Indiana Academic All-State; Indiana Football Coaches’ Association Academic All-State; Columbus East Football Academic Excellence Award; honor roll; academic letter; President’s Award for Education Excellence 2012; Project Lead the Way; first place in physics cardboard boat race; second place in knowledge-based event at Boiler Tech Challenge; Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor; earned 24 credits more than required for graduation; Hoosier Boys State; became an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer for senior project
High school athletics: Columbus East High School football with one undefeated season, two times making the Final Four in state, two-time letterman and one-time state champion; rugby with one award of Most Improved Player, one-time state champion, one-time co-captain and All-State Division 1 Varsity Team; one-time captain and four-year letterman; third place in ratio in lifting competition; Olympian Speed School; strength, agility and quickness training; rookie rugby training assistant; completed first triathlon in 2012.
Community activities: Cody Clouse fundraiser volunteer; flood preparation volunteer; 2013 National Student Leadership Conference on Engineering invitee; 2013 Missouri University of Science and Technology Summer Explosives Camp; peer mentor; math tutor; Eastside Community Center Fall Outreach volunteer; Memphis, Tennessee, mission trip; Dominican Republic mission trip; small group leader, Children’s Ministry drama team, Youth Group Advisory Board, Columbus Christmas Outreach volunteer, Halloween Outreach volunteer, Crazy Games Outreach volunteer and Youth Group community services projects for The Ridge.
Ten weeks of being pushed to the limits by a drill sergeant. That’s what Kian Geraghty is most excited about.
“I know it’s probably crazy,” he said.
But he also knows that’s where he will meet some of his best friends — as they’re being sent to the “gas chamber” to test their gas mask use, or when they are told to complete 42 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and a two-mile run in order to pass the physical fitness test.
He is hoping to be a combat engineer in the Army, but he is also interested in the Army Rangers units.
Geraghty’s mother, Carol Geraghty, said it will be difficult to adjust to having her son so far from home, but it’s a sacrifice she is excited to make.
“Our family is thrilled for Kian because it means so much to him,” she said. “At the same time, it means we will be learning about a whole new level of prayer and faith.”
Daniel Kotnik: New classmate
School: Home-schooled, earned 22 credit hours through dual-credit courses at IUPUC and Liberty University
Parents: Joe and Janice Kotnik
High school activities: Competitive policy debate and public speaking; Student Leadership Council; Economics Challenge Team; Eta Sigma Alpha National Home School Honor Society; supplemental instruction leader at IUPUC; economics research intern at ACT Research LLC; Outstanding Student in Calculus Award from IUPUC
High school athletics: Columbus Christian School soccer varsity team for three years, captain as one and a letterman for three years; Columbus Parks and Recreation soccer teams
Community activities: Involved with Boy Scouts of America as an Eagle Scout, a part of the National Youth Leadership Training staff as youth course director, assistant course director and troop guide, assistant scoutmaster, senior patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, patrol leader, historian, troop guide, instructor, quartermaster, chaplain’s aid, crew leader for 70-mile Yosemite backpacking trip, crew leader for 50-mile North Cascade backpacking trip, crew leader for Colorado Scout Camp, Order of the Arrow member at Brotherhood rank; founder and operator of a neighborhood recycling service; soccer referee for Columbus Parks and Recreation Department and United States Soccer Federation Grade 8; The Ridge Church as a musician, media tech and usher; bell ringer for Salvation Army; Love Chapel volunteer; Salute! volunteer
Entering the military is going to be a new type of experience for Daniel Kotnik, who will have classmates for the first time.
The home-schooled student knows how much of a change that will be.
“Nothing can truly prepare you for the academy and the intensity of the experience,” he said.
But he thinks his experience in a classroom of one has helped. He said he is more flexible and more independent because of it.
“It’s kind of given me a mindset that I should have something to challenge me at every single moment,” Kotnik said.
He expects that will happen at West Point.
He said he hopes to go into logistics.
“I’m excited to get out there and meet a broad set of new people from every background and every part of the country,” he said.
Daniel’s mother, Janice Kotnik, plans to attend the Annual Salute! Concert on Friday.
“I know it will be even more meaningful this year as I begin the journey of being an Army mom,” she said.
Michael Vogel: Joining the ‘Band’
School: Columbus North High School
Parents: James and Brenda Vogel
High school activities: National Honor Society; honor roll; academic varsity letter; Columbus North Debuteens and Music Men Show Choir; Columbus North Environmental Club; Columbus North Chess Club; Indiana Math League; Youth Leadership Bartholomew County scholarship finalist; Student Assembly
High School Athletics: Columbus North High School football, two years of which the team was runner-up in sectionals; varsity quarterback; Scheib O’Hara Scheib Football Camp; Columbus North Cycling club co-founder, member and president; regional weightlifting competition four-event finalist; Columbus North High School track and field; track sectional and regional qualifier; track academic all-state; Columbus North High School basketball; Columbus North High School swimming and diving
Community activities: Lifeguard, CPR-certified; Columbus North High School canned goods drive; Columbus North High School quarter raiders; soup kitchen volunteer; kidscommons volunteer; 782 Passing Academy volunteer; St. Bartholomew Catholic Church member and youth group mentor; youth group service committee co-chair; Youth Advocacy Committee; St. Bartholomew Catholic Church Haiti mission; Stained Glass church band member; Giggin’ fer God church band member
That was what showed up on Michael Vogel’s cellphone when he was in the middle of his anatomy class — but he had a feeling he knew who it was.
He ran into the hallway without telling his teacher where he was going and answered the call.
It was U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., telling him he had received a nomination to attend West Point.
It was something he had been working toward since he saw the “Band of Brothers” television series in 2001, which featured a character fresh out of West Point.
Although he said it has helped some to have three other students from Columbus going into the adventure with him, he is also eager to get out on his own and try something new with 1,200 fellow students he doesn’t yet know.
“I know they’re some of the best and the brightest, and I’m excited to live and work with them,” he said.
He is interested in being a helicopter pilot or working in intelligence.
Despite his excitement, he is also a little nervous about his first year. He knows it will be hard.
“In order to lead, you need to learn to serve first,” he said.
An academy of officers
Mission: To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of duty, honor, country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.
Program: The four-year integrated academic, military and physical development programs are conducted in a strong moral-ethical environment grounded in the bedrock values of integrity and respect for others.
Location: The academy is located about 50 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River in Orange County.
Cadets: The 4,400 members of the Corps of Cadets represent every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries. About 1,200 new Cadets enter the academy on reception day each year (about July 1). About 15 percent of the Corps of Cadets are women.
Admission: To be considered for admission to West Point , a candidate must be at least 17 but not yet 23 years of age on July 1 of the year of admission, be unmarried and have no legal obligation to support children. Candidates must be qualified academically, medically and physically, and must receive a nomination from an approved source, such as a member of Congress.
Academic: In addition to core curriculum, balanced in the arts and sciences, and a required five-course engineering sequence, cadets may select from among 37 majors. Classes are small, usually 18 students, and the faculty-to-student ratio is 1:6.
Military: Cadets participate in Cadet Basic Training their first summer and Cadet Field Training their second. During their third and fourth summers, they act as cadre for the first two classes or participate in military or academic programs worldwide.
Physical: Physical education and athletic participation occur throughout the four years, with 25 varsity sports and numerous intramural and club sports available.
Activities: More than 100 extracurricular activities are available, including religious, hobby and sports clubs.
Graduation: Upon graduation, cadets are awarded Bachelor of Science degrees and commissions in the U.S. Army. They serve on active duty for a minimum of five years. West Point graduates have served their country in a variety of capacities for more than 200 years, as military leaders, engineers, explorers on land and in space, and as leaders in business and government.